A group that managed the Bethany University Theater before the university closed last year is forming a plan to operate a 250-seat theater in a vacant 9,000-square-foot space next to Scotts Valley Branch Library.
However, the Scotts Valley City Council has yet to decide what to do with the space at 251 Kings Village Road, adjacent to the recently built library.
The city and representatives from Group 4 Architecture, which designed the library, have had four meetings since late September to discuss possibilities, and The Stagehand Group has begun forming a vision for the space.
“People at the meetings wanted a proscenium-type theater, similar to the Aptos High School theater,” said Lee Besse, one of the founders of the recently-formed group. “It’s hard for the public to rent (Aptos’s theater).”
In a proscenium-style theater, the audience faces the raised stage, with no audience on the sides of the stage.
Besse and Val Rebhahn, both from Scotts Valley, voluntarily ran Bethany’s theater from 1989 to 2012, but they realize that operating a theater without the sponsorship of a university is expensive.
“How much will it cost?” Besse asks. “No theater can exist without benefactors, because groups can’t afford theater rent. What we want to do is make the theater accessible.”
The City Council agreed Dec. 5 to begin talks with The Stagehand Group, but the council has not yet granted exclusive rights to the space.
Mayor Randy Johnson said the group must develop a business plan showing how it expects to find money to refurbish the space, along with a board of people who can drive the plan forward. At that point, the city could grant the group time to raise the money.
“We’ll do everything we can to make a performing arts theater happen, because it’s a good idea on so many levels,” Johnson said.
He said local eateries could benefit from a theater and suggested that the idea fits well with a town center that is proposed for the undeveloped acreage behind the library.
“When you go to a performance that’s live, lots of people actually make an evening of it,” he said.
Besse and Rebhahn said they have a list of groups that performed at Bethany University Theater, including Scotts Valley Performing Arts, Christian Youth Theater and many schools, but they have not determined how to pay for construction of a proscenium theater.
“We intimately know their needs,” Besse said. “Mostly it comes down to the money.”
He would not venture a guess about the costs involved without receiving an estimate from Group 4.
The library, which shares a wall with the empty space, opened in June 2011 in the building that formerly housed Scotts Valley Sports Center, purchased by the city for $4.5 million in 2009. The library branch fills a majority of the 23,000-square-foot sports complex but leaves about 9,000 square feet unused.
Completing the library project cost $7 million in Redevelopment Agency money and borrowed bond cash.
The city has no money to improve the unused space, however, leaving its development up to whatever group leases the space.
The Stagehand Group is looking for board members to fill a nine-person board that could run a theater and raise money to fund the project.
Positions include facilities director, marketing director, business director, stage-mom director, funding director, artistic director, production director, operations director and financial director.
Besse envisions turning The Stagehand Group into a nonprofit organization that would lease the building from the city and have employees to run the theater. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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